Olympic drug testing to begin in May 2016

By Doug FergusonFebruary 5, 2015, 4:25 am

SAN DIEGO - The more stringent process of Olympic drug testing will start May 6, 2016, for players who might be eligible for the U.S. team.

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said any player who would be eligible on May 6 will have to make themselves available for testing at any time. That process was developed by the International Golf Federation and the World Anti-Doping Agency.

A country can have as many as four players at the 2016 games - the first time golf is in the Olympics since 1904 - provided they are within the top 15 in the world ranking. Otherwise, countries can have no more than two players.

Each week depending on the ranking, the pool of players can change depending on their world ranking. The testing will go on through the competition.

"That list could change, and it could change between the time the pool is set and when the actual field is set," Finchem said Wednesday.

He also said drug testing would remain on the PGA Tour even if golf is no longer part of the Olympics after 2020. The International Olympic Committee votes in 2017 to determine whether golf becomes a permanent fixture.

"We didn't go to drug testing simply because of the Olympics," Finchem said. "And we didn't go to drug testing because we felt we had a PED problem. We went to drug testing because the perception across the board in sports is that athletes dope. We even had questions raised about our sport. We felt that the image of our sport and our athletes is the No. 1 asset by a big margin. And in our defense we want to be able to demonstrate that our players don't PED use."

Two players, Doug Barron and Bhavik Patel on the Web.com Tour, have tested positive in the anti-doping program that began in 2008.

CADDIE LAWSUIT: Finchem says players are in charge of the financial arrangement for their caddies, and he hopes that system continues.

A group of caddies has filed a federal lawsuit against the Tour in San Francisco, claiming the Tour is making money off them by making them wear bibs with the title sponsor's logo. The lawsuit contends the Tour is getting $50 million from exposure for the bibs, and the caddies receive none of that.

Finchem said he hasn't seen the complaint, and he wouldn't comment directly on the lawsuit. Instead, he suggested it was up to the player to look after his caddie.

"A player is an individual, an independent contractor. He doesn't have an HR [human resources] department, he makes an arrangement with somebody that's going to carry the bag and work with him," Finchem said. "The historical process is the player handles that and they are employees of the player. We think that's been a good system. The extent to which this lawsuit challenges that system, for whatever reasons they have in the lawsuit from a legal standpoint, it is what it is, but we would like to continue that system and let it go on."

Finchem said tournaments have tried to increase accommodations for the caddies over the last 15 years, such as parking and catering. He also said arrangements are "all over the map" because some caddies have been with the same player for years, and others are only out for a few weeks.

"The extent to which the Tour does better financially for the players, that impacts the ability of the player to do better for the caddie financially," he said.

RYDER CUP: The Ryder Cup Task Force held another meeting this week, without any details on how it is moving along. Phil Mickelson said the idea is not to find the right captain for 2016 at Hazeltine, but to develop a plan so that the Americans have more continuity for Ryder Cups down the road.

He still had some thoughts on the next captain.

"You've got to have somebody that's strong enough, confident enough in who they are, to withstand the scrutiny that's going to come their way, thanks to somebody," he said. He paused briefly before adding, "That was supposed to be a joke."

Mickelson was the key figure in the losing news conference at Gleneagles for his veiled criticism of U.S. captain Tom Watson. He didn't directly criticize Watson, rather praised all the qualities of 2008 captain Paul Azinger and noted that Watson didn't involve the players.

And after all that? He said Fred Couples would be a captain to meet those requirements.

"There's a couple of other guys that fit that mold, too," Mickelson said.

ROAD MAP: Brooks Koepka secured his PGA Tour card last year, mainly on the strength two big weeks at the Frys.com Open and U.S. Open. And his victory in Turkey on the European Tour moved him deep into the top 50 in the world. He is No. 19 after his first PGA Tour win last week in Phoenix.

The best part of all that - he can finally set a schedule well in advance.

"It's been the first time I actually know what I'm doing going forward," said Koepka, whose career path has taken him from the Challenge Tour to the European Tour to the PGA Tour. "The last two years I really haven't had much notice more than two, three weeks out on where I'm going. So to have a plan, it's nice. I can sit back and relax a little bit more and know where I'm going playing, do a little research on the golf courses, things like that."

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Berger more than ready to rebound at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:54 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Daniel Berger hopes that this year he gets to be on the other end of a viral moment at the Travelers Championship.

Berger was a hard-luck runner-up last year at TPC River Highlands, a spectator as Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat him in a playoff. It was the second straight year that the 25-year-old came up just short outside Hartford, as he carried a three-shot lead into the 2016 event before fading to a tie for fifth.

While he wasn’t lacking any motivation after last year’s close call, Berger got another dose last week at the U.S. Open when he joined Tony Finau as a surprise participant in the final group Sunday, only to shoot a 73 and drift to a T-6 finish.

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“It was one of the best experiences of my professional golf career so far. I feel like I’m going to be in such a better place next time I’m in that position, having felt those emotions and kind of gone through it,” Berger said. “There was a lot of reflection after that because I felt like I played good enough to get it done Sunday. I didn’t make as many putts as I wanted to, but I hit a lot of really good putts. And that’s really all you can do.”

Berger missed the cut earlier this month to end his quest for three straight titles in Memphis, but his otherwise consistent season has now included six top-20 finishes since January. After working his way into contention last week and still with a score to settle at TPC River Highlands, he’s eager to get back to work against another star-studded field.

“I think all these experiences you just learn from,” Berger said. “I think last week, having learned from that, I think that’s even going to make me a little better this week. So I’m excited to get going.”

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Rory tired of the near-misses, determined to close

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:46 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy has returned to the Travelers Championship with an eye on bumping up his winning percentage.

McIlroy stormed from the back of the pack to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, but that remains his lone worldwide win since the 2016 Tour Championship. It speaks to McIlroy’s considerable ability and lofty expectations that, even with a number of other high finishes this season, he is left unsatisfied.

“I feel like I’ve had five realistic chances to win this year, and I’ve been able to close out one of them. That’s a bit disappointing, I guess,” McIlroy said. “But at least I’ve given myself five chances to win golf tournaments, which is much more than I did last year.”

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The most memorable of McIlroy’s near-misses is likely the Masters, when he played alongside Patrick Reed in Sunday’s final group but struggled en route to a T-5 finish. But more frustrating in the Ulsterman’s eyes were his runner-up at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, when he led by two shots with eight holes to go, and a second-place showing behind Francesco Molinari at the BMW PGA Championship in May.

“There’s been some good golf in there,” he said. “I feel like I let Dubai and Wentworth get away a little bit.”

He’ll have a chance to rectify that trend this week at TPC River Highlands, where he finished T-17 last year in his tournament debut and liked the course and the tournament enough to keep it on his schedule. It comes on the heels of a missed cut at the U.S. Open, when he was 10 over through 11 holes and never got on track. McIlroy views that result as more of an aberration during a season in which he has had plenty of chances to contend on the weekend.

“I didn’t necessarily play that badly last week. I feel like if I play similarly this week, I might have a good chance to win,” McIlroy said. “I think when you play in conditions like that, it magnifies parts of your game that maybe don’t stack up quite as good as the rest of your game, and it magnified a couple of things for me that I worked on over the weekend.”

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Sunday run at Shinnecock gave Reed even more confidence

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:08 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – While many big names are just coming around to the notion that the Travelers Championship is worth adding to the schedule, Patrick Reed has been making TPC River Highlands one of his favorite haunts for years.

Reed will make his seventh straight appearance outside Hartford, where he tied for fifth last year and was T-11 the year before that. He is eager to get back to the grind after a stressful week at the U.S. Open, both because of his past success here and because it will offer him a chance to build on a near-miss at Shinnecock Hills.

Reed started the final round three shots off the lead, but he quickly stormed toward the top of the leaderboard and became one of Brooks Koepka’s chief threats after birdies on five of his first seven holes. Reed couldn’t maintain the momentum in the middle of the round, carding three subsequent bogeys, and ultimately tied for fourth.

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It was a bittersweet result, but Reed is focusing on the positives after taking a couple days to reflect.

“If you would have told me that I had a chance to win coming down Sunday, I would have been pleased,” Reed said. “I felt like I just made too many careless mistakes towards the end, and because of that, you’re not going to win at any major making careless mistakes, especially on Sunday.”

Reed broke through for his first major title at the Masters, and he has now finished fourth or better in three straight majors dating back to a runner-up at the PGA last summer. With another chance to add to that record next month in Scotland, he hopes to carry the energy from last week’s close call into this week’s event on a course where he feels right at home.

“It just gives me confidence, more than anything,” Reed said. “Of course I would have loved to have closed it out and win, but it was a great week all in all, and there’s a lot of stuff I can take from it moving forward. That’s how I’m looking at it.”

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Koepka back to work, looking to add to trophy collection

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 8:53 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Days after ensuring the U.S. Open trophy remained in his possession for another year, Brooks Koepka went back to work.

Koepka flew home to Florida after successfully defending his title at Shinnecock Hills, celebrating the victory Monday night with Dustin Johnson, Paulina Gretzky, swing coach Claude Harmon III and a handful of close friends. But he didn’t fully unwind because of a decision to honor his commitment to the Travelers Championship, becoming the first player to tee it up the week after a U.S. Open win since Justin Rose in 2013.

Koepka withdrew from the Travelers pro-am, but he flew north to Connecticut on Wednesday and arrived to TPC River Highlands around 3 p.m., quickly heading to the driving range to get in a light practice session.

“It still hasn’t sunk in, to be honest with you,” Koepka said. “I’m still focused on this week. It was just like, ‘All right, if I can get through this week, then I’m going to be hanging with my buddies next week.’ I know then maybe it’ll sink in, and I’ll get to reflect on it a little bit more.”

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Koepka’s plans next week with friends in Boston meant this week’s event outside Hartford made logistical sense. But he was also motivated to play this week because, plainly, he hasn’t had that many playing opportunities this year after missing nearly four months with a wrist injury.

“I’ve had so many months at home being on the couch. I don’t need to spend any more time on the couch,” Koepka said. “As far as skipping, it never crossed my mind.”

Koepka’s legacy was undoubtedly bolstered by his win at Shinnecock, as he became the first player in nearly 30 years to successfully defend a U.S. Open title. But he has only one other PGA Tour win to his credit, that being the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open, and his goal for the rest of the season is to make 2018 his first year with multiple trophies on the mantle.

“If you’re out here for more than probably 15 events, it gives you a little better chance to win a couple times. Being on the sidelines isn’t fun,” Koepka said. “Keep doing what we’re doing and just try to win multiple times every year. I feel like I have the talent. I just never did it for whatever reason. Always felt like we ran into a buzzsaw. So just keep plugging away.”